Blended Worship in our Midst, by Pr. Klemet Preus

(Editor’s Note: This is part three of a five part series on worship in the LCMS.)


What is this trend in our synod where churches are following the liturgy sort of? They have most of the parts but they substitute contemporary praise for the ordinaries in the service, use praise songs instead of hymns, put a band in the chancel and call it “blended worship?” It seems to dominate the liturgical landscape of our church. I’m going to explain this to you in less than 700 words when, justly, it should require about 700 pages.


The primary purpose of both hymns and the liturgy of the Divine Service, in Lutheran thinking, is to accompany the rich theological texts of the Gospel which permeate both our Lutheran hymns and the historic liturgy. The direction of the communication is primarily from God to us. In American Evangelicalism the primary purpose of the songs and worship is to help move the worshipper to have the type of experience which provides the assurance that God loves them. Lutherans are less interested in emotion and more in Gospel content, while Evangelicals tend to show more interest in the emotive capabilities of music and lyrics than in their use as vehicles to teach the word of the gospel. So the worship wars are deeply theological as I have shown in my previous two blogs.    


Three things have happened in the LCMS over the last three decades. Some have shamelessly adopted the mindset of American Evangelicals and have discarded the liturgy – lock, stock and barrel. Others have become ardent disciples of traditional hymnody and liturgy convinced that a return to these treasures is necessary if the church is to become healthy. I suppose I tend to be in this category. Both of these groups are found to be a bit annoying to the third group. This is the basic down to earth liturgical middle of the LCMS which wants both to use the historic liturgy but also enjoys the upbeat, happy style of many of the contemporary songs which have been produced by the hundreds of thousands over the last couple of decades.


This third group has arisen for a few understandable and often legitimate reasons. First, Lutherans value freedom under the gospel and unless something is overtly sinful or wrong it is difficult for pastors to say “No” to musical, hymnic or liturgical innovations. Second, while in past generations the pastors typically chose the hymns, these days committees are formed, or individual people pressure pastors to include certain songs in the church. At funerals and weddings, for example, I have a very difficult time teaching the people that it is not one of their inalienable rights to choose their own hymns. The same seeps into our view of the Sunday service. Consequently the service becomes a reflection of current popular trends more than the historic, considered, theological position of the church. Third, we are in greater contact between congregations than in the past. People from one church move to another in our transient society and bring with them a desire to open up the service to certain new forms. Fourth, these songs and liturgical innovations are often pretty, simple, and easy to sing. The rhythm and cadence are things we are used to having heard them on the radio while growing up. The music of some traditional hymns, on the other hand, is often a bit foreign to our ears. Chanting is also perceived to be difficult by many people. People, particularly visitors from other church bodies, often sing more lustily with a good praise song than with our traditional hymnody. Fifth, the strong theological content of traditionally Lutheran Hymnody and the liturgy is a turn off to many people. Many were impatient with the doctrinal controversy which plagued our church in the sixties and seventies and they simply want to avoid strong doctrinal assertions for fear that these will rekindle strong feelings or open deep and painful wounds. Sixth, this middle group of our synod is by far the largest. Their vastness tends to justify their worship predilections and their habits are difficult to adjust or change.  


So this middle group in our church dominates. And that explains the pervasive use of “blended” worship in our circles. But is it a good thing?

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


Blended Worship in our Midst, by Pr. Klemet Preus — 21 Comments

  1. Thank you for explaining this! Being a convert I can tell you how meaningful it is to have eight stanza theological treatise on the same topic as the sermon. It also explains my distaste for the occasional “Gaither song.” Ick.

    Alabaré! (cha cha cha)

  2. Hey James,

    I resemble that last comment. I like Alabare and more importantly it is a great ethnic song with good theology. (I am probably in the minority on this website on this one.)

    Your Pastor (Rossow)

    P.S. – I will have to check to make sure you don’t edit it out of the Sunday morning service CD when we do it for worship. 🙂 Thanks for all you do at the sound board.

  3. Klemet,

    Well said.

    Is it a good thing? That depends.

    First and foremost, what ingredients are you blending in “blended worship”? Truth mixes well with Truth. Not so with Truth and Error. The truth of the historic liturgy mixes very well with other traditions from other times and places –as long as those other traditions are born from the same truth as the liturgy.

    Second, what results from the blending of two traditions? Bananas are good for you. So is Brocolli. Would I blend the two into a smoothie? No. Bananas and Brocolli are good separately, but not blended together. Likewise, the blending of two good traditions sometimes can result in a confusing mess. The two are better served separately.

    Third, how are two traditions blended? In baking, how you blend the ingredients, and in what order you blend them is often very important. The results can be a light soufflé, or a puddle of goo.

    Finally, why are we blending traditions? Are we just experimenting? Are we doing it to express mere preference? Are we doing it to imitate the culture, or the Baptists down the street? Or, are we blending traditions because there is a real affinity between them, they express the one true faith, they serve the proclamation of the Gospel better together than apart?

    We can’t avoid blending at some level. The historic liturgy and hymnody as we have them today are the result of careful and expert blending of traditions over millenia. And yes, the canons of our liturgy and hymnody are still open. Some (a very minicule percentage) of today’s blended worship is tomorrow’s historic liturgy.

    But, I find it difficult to believe that Pastor Bob tossing in something from the top 40 of CCM on Sunday, writing his own creed, or playing lead guitar in the praise band is the kind of blending we need.


  4. Thank you Pastor Preus. I’m a lifelong Lutheran who has had the opportunity to belong to many different congregations in different communities, owing to an itinerant upbringing. I have experienced the full spectrum of worship styles (although the Jeffersonchurch concept is a little bit more out there than I’ve seen). This is asn excellant commentary, but your book “The Fire and the Staff” really put this into perspective for me.

    I agree completely with you Pastor Wilkens. I’m not sure what the proper blend is or should be, but think our Divine Services are as close as it gets.

    I am a musician by education and practice. I really enjoy an up-beat song, but the praise songs that I encounter in other traditions are so light-weight and frothey, that they just don’t mean anything, or they’re all about what I bring to worship, not what I get from it, i.e., “I will love him, praise him, etc. (love him and hug him and smother him with kisses…), repeat ad nauseum. I have no use for rock bands in the sanctuary…they’re just too irreverant. Sorry to you progressives out there, but I prefer reverence and awe, which, for me, sets a more conducive atmosphere to recieve the word and sacrements.

    I love the chanting and the liturgical service much better that the liturgy “lite” I got at my previous congregation where it was written by the pastor in language that would be non-threatening to the “unchurched” that we were supposed to be reaching out to. I’ll never understand how you can appreciate the gospel without understanding our conviction under the law, but instead of having confession and absolution, we were stuck with what I refer to as the aw-shucks and the s’all-right. No substance.

    Then again, my current pastor, whom I dearly love, is all about the theological content, but I don’t care how often we sing some of the hymns he’s chosen from the LSB, the germanic cadences and melodies are never going to sink in to the point that many of the members of our congregation are ever going to get comfortable with them. I love the rich musical heritage of our church, but if I can’t sight sing the music, I sure very few among us can. We’ve been doing the Divine Service Setting One from the LSB for over a year (every other sunday, except on fifth sundays) and we still can’t get the nunc dimitus right. I know we don’t want to get complacent, but a certain comfort level and sing-abilty are helpful in keeping the congregation engaged.

    As far as the transient nature of our society, and being missional, if you’re a visitor from another tradition, or “unchurched”, God bless you and WELCOME! This is who we are. I hope the Holy Spirit opens your heart to our way of worshipping. If not, God bless you again, and feel free to continue your search at the congreagation down the street. I hope that doesn’t sound too flippant or closed minded or hard hearted, but who does it benefit if we blend the Lutheranism out of our worship?

    Eric Ramer

  5. I was at what I guess was a blended service on Sunday afternoon. The occasion was the installation of the Rev. Wade Butler to the “The Office of Pastor Serving Canoga Park Lutheran Church, Canoga Park, California, & Trinity Lutheran Church, Reseda, California, Unifying As Christ Lutheran Church.”

    The reason I went to this particular installation is because I had heard Patrick Kyle (one of the founders of New Reformation Press, which advertises on Pirate Christian Radio) talk about Pr. Butler and his “Bible in an Hour” recording (which New Reformation Press sells). Pr. Cwirla based his Higher Things in depth sectional on “The 180 Minute Bible: Genesis to Revelation in 3 Hours” on it. I glanced at the web site of the congregation where Pr. Butler served ( and viewed the video welcome there, which supports the historic liturgy.

    I was therefore surprised that the first thing I heard when I walked into Trinity in Reseda Sunday afternoon was “Dream Big,” sung by the praise team. I never heard of this song before. Google has a link to a You Tube video of it being sung on “American Idol” (a show I do not watch). The service was the updated TLH p. 15 service from the LSB. I knew all of the hymns that were used from the LSB, but had never heard any of the songs that were used. Only one of those songs was sung by the congregation. It was “I See the Lord.”

    I see the Lord
    Seated on the throne, exalted,
    And the train of His robe
    Fills the temple with glory.
    And the whole earth is filled,
    And the whole earth is filled,
    And the whole earth is filled,
    With His glory.
    Holy, holy, holy, holy,
    Holy is the Lord of Hosts

    Why are there five holies instead of three? Why wasn’t “Isaiah, Mighty Seer” sung instead of this cheap imitation?

    Another song that was sung was “One Step.”

    These “praise songs” really seemed out of place in a liturgical service, most of which was chanted.

    I think that Pr. Butler realizes that this doesn’t fit as he talks about plans to have two kinds of services in his podcast on “Two Types of Worship” ( He speaks about liturgical worship, which he calls Aaronic and transcendent and non-liturgical, which he calls Davidic and imminent. He speaks of liturgical as being “high church.” I remember Pr. Cwirla stating on a number of occasions that Lutherans should not use the term “high church” to refer to worship as it really only applies to Anglicans. Pr. Butler says we need both types of worship and says that the “high church” service will get higher and the non-liturgical service will get looser. He mentioned that when David worshiped he danced so hard that his clothes fell off. I trust this won’t happen to anyone who attends the non-liturgical service, but I wonder. It sounds as if the non-liturgical service will be open to charismatic wackoism.

    I’m veering off topic here, but I note that the service folder says that Pr. Butler “intends to finish his Doctorate at the Adizes Institute of Organizational Change and Management in Santa Barbara” (actually it’s about 13 miles east of Santa Barbara in Carpinteria; see This reminds me of Chris Rosebrough’s posting on “Changing the LCMS,” .

    I spoke with an elderly member of Trinity and what I learned is that Trinity Lutheran Church, Reseda, is going to sell its property. For the time being, services for the new Christ Lutheran Church will meet at Canoga Park Lutheran Church. Eventually a new property somewhere else in the San Fernando Valley will be acquired and a new facility will be built and the Canoga Park property will be sold. Apparently the Canoga Park property isn’t suitable for the non-liturgical service. They are supposed to continue to have a liturgical service as well.

    The member told me that the synod approves what is being done. I think that’s true. I suspect that the district office pressured these congregations to do this or something like it. (District President Stoterau preached at the installation service.) They tried to to get First Lutheran in Van Nuys to be part of this unification. I wonder if the reason they are calling it a unification instead of a merger has something to do with the psychology of change management.

    In one of his sermons, Pr. Butler says that this project will either be so successful that it’ll be featured on the cover of the “Lutheran Witness” or such a big failure that it’ll be on the last page of the “National Enquirer.” I think we can guess it’ll be the topic for his doctor’s thesis.

    See .

  6. Pr. Wilken said:

    I find it difficult to believe that Pastor Bob tossing in something from the top 40 of CCM on Sunday, writing his own creed, or playing lead guitar in the praise band is the kind of blending we need.

    True, that kind of thing is icky.

    I do think it’s ok to use hymns that have been written in the contemporary age, within the context of the liturgy, provided their music isn’t overly emotionally schmaltzy and their texts are full of good theology. Note that I said “hymns” and not “praise and worship songs!”

    It’s hard to do well, true, but isn’t the Divine Service worth our best? Absolutely!


  7. Apparently the Canoga Park property isn’t suitable for the non-liturgical service.
    They are supposed to continue to have a liturgical service as well.

    Tell me this last one again, when they get their new “suitable for non liturgical services” [coffee house?]
    built. 🙁

    Possibly the Witless first, followed in due time by Nat’l ??? .

  8. I was raised in a Lutheran church that held liturgical services early on Sunday and praise/worship services afterward. I’m inferring by what I’ve read here that steadfast Lutherans don’t discourage praise and worship, they merely discourage the adulteration of the Lutheran liturgy. In other words, praise and worship does no harm so long as the liturgy is preserved in its divine entirety.

    I must commend those of you who have posted on this site and acknowledged the legitimacy of individual worship preference. I can accuse none of you of the ignorance that would demand only divine liturgy as legitimate corporate worship – although this conversation is walking dangerously close circles around that bottomless pit (a conversation draped in denominationally approved robes and ordained wisdom). I’m gathering here that the Lutheran divine liturgy is intended to serve a very different purpose than praise and worship – to serve strictly as a tool for serving up scripture and sacrament, rather than to facilitate the spiritual or emotional connection between Christ and his body, or even among the members of that body.

    I would take this opportunity to remember that the experience of interacting and being edified by the presence of God permeates the entirety of human experience beyond liturgy delivery. Take, for example, David, the man after God’s own heart. A sinful and fallen man, to be sure, but one who, to the glory of God made an embarrassing spectacle of himself by dancing and singing the praise of the Lord in the streets. The original words David wrote in the Psalms flowed from the divine inspiration within his heart, serving to calm Saul’s rage, and to extol the greatness, reverence, and joy he had for his intimate Lord. We know, theologically, that the Holy Spirit did not reside in David at that time (at least not the way it resides with us now), but that because his words are 100% congruent with the entirety of scripture they were divinely inspired for canonization. It is, however, impossible that they sounded anything like the German Lutheran heritage which this blog so stoutly affirms as divinely liturgical. That can only mean that across millennia and an entire globe of cultures, more than one divinely inspired style of writing and singing praise to the Lord legitimately exists.

    All this to say that I hope the steadfast Lutherans understand just how niche a market they serve; just how specialized and miniscule a fragment of the body of Christ is actually edified by the divine liturgy; just how small, aging, and whithering a corner of the global Christian population they are providing any meaning to – after CENTURIES of obscurity have rendered the musical tastes and symbolic significance of the liturgy drastically deficient for reaching the majority of today’s audience, if not entirely irrelevant. When was the last time a Lutheran liturgy moved someone -just one person- the way Christ’s words moved thousands?

    As constant and true as any other characteristic of God, throughout all time, God meets humanity where humanity resides. We are shortsighted if not blind; crippled if not immobile, and completely incapable of our own salvation since the very fall of man. Only God’s reaching hands of sacrifice and salvation have clothed our naked shame, and his strength is always greater than our weakness. That is, God is constantly covering the distance between him and us that we cannot; a distance that is never in short supply.

    For example, the Old Testament Israelites needed the specificity of sacrificial procedure to understand reconciliation with God. God finally reached even farther to meet us with Christ’s sacrifice, and our challenge today is to fully understand the completeness of it’s reconciliation for us. Even while Christ was on the earth he explained every heavenly principle in socially relevant earthly terms.

    A message that does not resonate with its audience bears no fruit; has no purpose; lacks meaning and fullness. Christ spoke in terms of vineyards, seed planting, kings and subjects – the familiar elements of the audience around him; constantly reaching to meet humanity within humanity’s limitations. The Architect of humanity has always understood this, so why would those who seek to know Him, with such dedication, exhaspirate themselves over the nuances of the preservation of an ineffectual medium?

    Please, continue in your steadfastness for the growth of your own understanding, or for the continued edification of those generations who appreciate its nuances, and for the Truth portrayed by divine liturgy. But I beg you, I BEG you, do not allow your intellectual and rhetorical exercises to distract you from the living Spirit which works and moves on the earth, and in your hearts, even now. Do not neglect the starving hearts of those whose tastes and emotions and needs are rooted in THIS place, at THIS time; in YOUR communities and YOUR congregations. Do not forget that Jesus’ physical body spent its ministry HEALING, GOING, SERVING, SHARING, and REACHING out to people no matter where they were or what their sins had looked like. If this is our great commission as His physical body now, how significant is the preservation of Lutheran liturgy to His work?

    Luther’s teachings are certainly essential and they served as a great incubator for my infantile faith from birth through college, but let’s remember that he was a first-generation recovering Catholic, only one degree of separation from a tyrannical phariseical organization. Remember that the early church, fostered and maintained by the very apostles whose hands held Jesus’ hands, and which wrote the Gospels and epistles, had no such tradition as your divine liturgy; nor did the intimate gatherings of foundational believers in the early body. Did they know the fullness of Christ’s redemption any less? I would argue that they knew it better than Martin Luther himself (gasp!). Christ reprimanded and drove out all sorts of spiritual evil, but he criticized only one group of human beings: the established church, whose religiosity had prevented them from communicating the Truth God had entrusted to them.

    I have no expectation that this comment will be posted, but I would be shocked into a greater respect for this entire community of steadfast Lutherans if it is. Dare you open your conversation to non-synodically approved theology and dissent? What’s the greater good – the preservation of your undisturbed homogeneous worldviews, or the opportunity to link arms with the broader body of Christ?

    That’s obviously a loaded question, but I eagerly await the answer.

  9. Jesse (#8):

    If you want to get a very well stated, easy to read explanation of where most of us are coming from, I highly recommend you get a copy of Pastor Preus’ book “The Fire and the Staff.”

    I’ll try to explain a few things about “what it means to be a Lutheran” as I understand it. I’m just a lay person, with limited theological training (basic catechesis, Sunday School, regular Worship and some time spent reading the bible and the Lutheran Confessions) so I’ll apologize to my steadfast brethren and you right up front, and welcome you all to correct me where I err.

    First, we hold and confess that the Lutheran Confessions are the true explanation the divine word and are the basis of the true church. The liturgical Divine Services have been carefully “vetted” to make sure that they are completely in keeping with Scripture and the Confessions. While it is understood that worship style are in many respects adiophra (sp?), deviation from the Divine Service into worship practices that are less well thought out and doctrinally reviewed can lead a congregation down the slippery slope away from orthodoxy into heterodoxy – away from a true exposition of God’s word and proper practice of the sacraments.

    Secondly, I appreciate your well thought out and stated concerns, but I think your viewpoint is a little skewed, and frankly more narrow minded than ours (mine). I think we all would agree that praising the Lord regularly and in exuberant fashion is not a bad thing, I just don’t think that is the function of the worship service. My understanding is that worship is where we place ourselves in Gods presence and receive the his word and the sacraments, and I would suggest that loud, exuberant “praise” music distracts from that process and moves it from the realm of what God is doing for us into the realm of what we are doing for him, which is entirely the wrong focus. As I said in my previous posting, I think reverence and awe are a more appropriate attitude. I have been known to spontaneously jump, shout, sing and even dance (kind of) praising God, but usually in a private setting, not because I’m ashamed of being seen doing it, but because I don’t want to give the impression it’s about me.

    Your use of expressions such as “niche market” and “audience” belie an incorrect understanding of what this whole discussion is about. We are NOT a marketing organization, unlike what some of the more heterodox denominations espouse. Jesus isn’t sitting in a board room with the apostles having a marketing meeting saying “How can we make ourselves more attractive to the unchurched masses” as I’ve heard some of my fundamentalist friends explain it, after all, Jesus tells us to take up our crosses and follow him and everyone in that imagined board room died a horrifying martyr’s death…not the most attractive bunch of advocates. It is not our job to edify or move, that is strictly the prevue of the holy spirit. Any fruit we bear can only come through him. All we can do is remain true (steadfast) in our worship practices and trust in him to work in and through us. And by the way, I see people truly and genuinely move through the Divine Service every Sunday, and consider myself among them. If you don’t, perhaps you may want to re-examine YOUR perspective.

    We are the most accepting church I know of. We welcome anyone to join us in worship, and to learn and accept our doctrines and practices as their own, God willing. We just refuse to water them down and accept error into them in a vain attempt to “outreach” to people and make God’s work our works. That really benefits no one. We refuse to make our worship practices more worldly, because the world is Satans domain, and inviting him into our worship doesn’t and can’t bring us or anyone closer to God. Again, all we can do is set a correct example and trust in the Holy Spirit to do his work.

    That’s my understanding anyway. If I’m wrong, by all means, feel free to rebuke or correct me. Didn’t mean to write a treatise…sorry.

    Eric Ramer

  10. In answer to your question:

    When was the last time a Lutheran liturgy moved someone -just one person- the way Christ’s words moved thousands?

    I am moved most every Sunday and Wednesday evening when I’m in church to receive the gift of worship of God. When I’m not so moved, it’s usually an issue that my sinful mind is trying to bring to my attention, causing me to lose focus on what I’m there for. My wife cries more often than not when she meditates on what Christ has done for us in giving his Body and Blood for us.

    Most of the 20-somethings and 30-somethings who populate our church are similarly moved. Yes, we have an aging congregation (or at least perhaps I notice it since I’m among the aging), but there are certainly a ton of kids in the congregation, whose parents are attracted by the solidly lutheran liturgy and hymns. No “blended” worship at my church!

    Norm Fisher

  11. Jesse #8,

    Thank you for your thoughtful comment and for your interest in this website. I hope you will stick around the site for a few months to get a bigger picture of what is going on in these posts and comments.

    The authors on this site are not espousing a particular FORM of the liturgy but Christ-centered, cross-focused liturgical worship versus man-centered, emotionally driven worship.

    Please read the posts and comments on this site more carefully. No on has claimed divine authorship of the liturgy. That is your assertion. What the authors of this website do assert is that the liturgy used by most of Christendom in this day and for the last 2,000 years, is based on the Old Testament form of worship and was used by Christ himself but we do not claim it was divinely inspired.

    Your citing of David’s example is curious. Do you believe that there is anything in the New Testament that recommends that sort of “worship style?” Actually, everything about worship written by Paul in I Corinthians is all about denouncing such individualistic and emotional outbursts. Which do you think is more prescriptive for New Testament worship: a single incident in the life of David or the words of St. Paul?

    Contrary to what you assert, this blog is not about promoting a German liturgy. Where did you get that idea from? No one posting on this site has even come close to saying anything anywhere near that. You brought that to the discussion so it must be a part of your own bias. The liturgy practiced in the Lutheran church is more Latin and Italian than it is German. It is as much English as it is German. The form of worship spoken of here on this site has come out of 2,000 years influence from Rome, Canterbury, Wittenberg, Spain, Africa, St. Louis, etc., and is rooted in the worship that Christ used in the synagogue and is dripping with Scripture. I encourage you to take some time and do a little reading about the western liturgy before criticizing it. This brings me to an important point.

    You make the liturgy out to be some sort of private choice by insiders. Do you realize that there are far more Christians who worship God liturgically these days than in the free form that you seem to embrace? Liturgical worship is used by Lutherans, Anglicans, Episcopalians, many Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and on on. It is even being embraced by many Pentecostal churches who are realizing that thier emotion-based worship is leaving them unfulfilled as they keep looking for the next great emotional mountain to climb. You will find that liturgical worship is not a “niche market” but instead, the top forty praise music that you endorse is truly the niche market reaching far fewer Christians in this age and having only been around for 30 years or so, miniscule in comparison to the liturgy that has lasted for 2,000 years.

    You make the question of the liturgy out to be one of style rather than substance. We here at the Brothers of John the Steadfast are much more interested in substance than style. The question of the liturgy is not one about style but about substance. Liturgical churches realize that THE question to be answered in life is “How do I a sinner stand before a holy God?” Pentecostals have changed the question to “How do I have an emotional experience with God?” Evangelicals have changed the question to be “How can I lead a good, upstanding, Christian life?” The Bible makes the first question the priority, not the second or third question. They are significant but not primary. Worship should be reflective of the fundamental religious question and not secondary ones.

    You are more intested in “moving” people than having sins forgiven. Barack Obama and Sarah Palen move people, maybe even more so than Christ. After all, by the time Christ died there were only 120 or so of the thousands you speak of, still following him but Obama and Palen’s crowd are growing. (Actually, I guess Obama’s crowds are now shrinking but that’s a discussion for a different website.)

    You speak of the “living Spirit.” Do you also realize that you are the one placing limits on the “living Spirit?” The Spirit is found where Christ’s word is preached and the sacraments are administered according to Christ’s command. You suggest that the Spirit is present only where there is some sort of emotional outburst such as David’s dancing.

    Concerning your thoughts on Luther, do you realize that what you call the tyrannical/phariseaical church (i.e. Rome) put a bounty on Luther’s head as an outlaw. He must have struck at the core of what they wrongly taught. He does not represent a baby step away from Rome but instead represents a sea change. Your basic concerns on the other hand, are nothing more than the thoughts of the pentecostal and charismatic movement which is only 100 years old. Your position is the baby position.

    Yes, your post will be printed. We do not restrict dialogue on this site. We encourage it.

    Are you serious in thinking that the Pharisees were the established church and that what Christ was fighting against was tradition and the establishment? We all got over that cock-eyed viewpoint sometime in the late 1970’s. What you are espousing is old, worn out, establishment bashing and freedom defending liberalism. Christ did not fight the Pharisees because they were the establishment. He denounced them because they put their trust in their own good works and not in the mercy of God and in thier place he gave us the Gospel and the sacraments which are given expression in the liturgy.

    I look forward to your continued participation on our website. Again, thanks for checking us out.

    On behalf of the Brothers of John the Steadfast,

    Pastor Rossow

  12. Jesse wrote:

    “I’m gathering here that the Lutheran divine liturgy is intended to serve a very different purpose than praise and worship – to serve strictly as a tool for serving up scripture and sacrament, rather than to facilitate the spiritual or emotional connection between Christ and his body, or even among the members of that body.”

    No, “scripture and sacrament” IS “the connection between Christ and his body” and “among the members of that body.”

    Everything else is mysticism.


  13. I’m very thankful to all of you for your respectful, deliberate, and engaging responses. I had no expectation of a real conversation here and I’m delighted to see that I was wrong.

    Eric (#9), I am also a layman with limited theological training and I appreciate your eloquent response. I am in fact a marketer by formal education and by profession, which leads me to address your concern for the language I used in my comment. While identified almost exclusively with profit-seeking corporations, marketing boils down simply to the equation of human communication; i.e., there is a transmitter and a receiver. Allow me to explain what I intended to communicate.

    Take, for example, the conversation we’re having right now. My mind is formulating an idea and wrapping that idea in language, while my fingers are capturing the language in type. Your eyes are viewing exactly the type I transmit to you, and your brain is decoding the language back into ideas. So we have a 5 stage process (by the way, this is also true of all non-verbal communication): idea > language choice > transmission media > receiver > interpretation. Because I intend to express my ideas only to you, you are my audience. Because you are only one person, you are a very small (niche) audience. With context clues (the purpose of this conversation, this website, its historical context, and what little else I know about you from your post) I would be wise to choose the first three of those stages deliberately, so that you are most likely to accurately execute the final two stages and capture the desired idea.

    Jesus did exactly that by teaching heavenly Truth in parables. Not only did he choose language familiar to his audience, but also subject matter and social contexts familiar to his audience; communication media that they were most likely to receive and interpret accurately. My point was that liturgical worship (in my experience) makes very shallow (if any) consideration for the contemporary context of its audience. In this way, liturgy fails to follow Christ’s example of communicating heavenly Truth – reaching into the lives of his audience with relevance.

    I suspected it was a misstep when I used terms like “niche market” and “audience” in my post above because my understanding of those terms was different from yours, therefore ineffectively communicating my point. Ironically enough, your response has served as opportunity for me to prove it. The Message that liturgy carries is far too crucial to be allowed to be obscured by its antiquated and irrelevant media of delivery, let alone steadfastly obscured.

    Pastor Rossow (#11), you have clarified several other points of miscommunication for which I am responsible – many thanks to you. The first is this:

    No on has claimed divine authorship of the liturgy.

    Perhaps I’m thicker than the average bear, but I do understand the liturgy in question to be referred to as the “Divine Liturgy”, which is also understood to be “inerrant”, correct me if I’m wrong. You (and others) clarified the difference between liturgical style and liturgical content. Liturgical Lutheran content is strictly scriptural and I 100% agree that scripture is the sole reliable source for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness (divine and inerrant). However, I think liturgical style has been the greatest source of my frustrations in the traditional Lutheran church (hence my certain ethnic musical association, also mentioned by Eric in #4), because things like order of worship, chanting, hymnody (which is a word I’ve never seen before yesterday) and musical style are entirely social constructs. They were social constructs in ancient times, in Luther’s time, and in our time today. How can we claim the inerrant nature of any of these things? They were not laid out in scripture as instructions for us. What makes an ancient or medieval style more worthy than a contemporary style? What is the purpose of trapping scripture’s crucial message of Truth in irrelevant, outdated social media that acts as a barrier between the message and its audience?

    I am a huge fan of Martin Luther and his story of church reformation was the unadulterated work of God. God most certainly used him to break the message of Truth free from the established religious hypocrites, back into the language of the people – back into relevance for the desperate masses for whom it was always intended. I don’t know how happy Martin would be with a church under his very name that chooses, steadfastly, to limit the transmission of the Truth for which he fought so radically by winnowing away the otherwise available options for its transmission. We are not called to be of the world, but we are called to be in the world. So who are we to be cloistered away, poo-pooing the worship and outreach of the active majority of Christ’s body while their hands heal and hearts feel and feet walk – constantly striving to live into Jesus’ example?

    Sure, the Lutheran church is theoretically and rhetorically accepting, but in practice it has placed far too many barriers between it and the world it was commissioned to reach, all in the name of preventing error from entering worship. My reference to David merely served as one example where genuine worship and praise to the Lord existed outside the Lutheran liturgy – to prove that it’s possible. Not only that, but to remind us all that humanity has been worshiping our Creator God for millennia previous to liturgy’s conception, and that the Holy Spirit is alive and well among the believers who worship daily and weekly without it, despite their errant ways.

    I assume your reference to I Corinthians points to the second half of chapter 14. Here Paul encourages orderly worship so that those led by the Spirit to speak or prophesy can be heard one at a time, allowing those in attendance to receive the message. Again, the Paul’s point is on effective delivery of the message to its audience. Whether by oration, gregorian chant, ancient hymn, or set to rock and roll music, Paul simply advises the clear communication of the Gospel message. If I missed it, please point out the scripture that infers a preference of one order of worship over another, or one style of delivery over another.

    I have many more thoughts on your collective responses, but it’s really late here on eastern time. I hope to post more later, specifically on these subjects:

    –“How do I a sinner stand before a holy God?”
    –“You are more interested in ‘moving’ people than having sins forgiven.” (directly related to the first)
    –“The Spirit is found where Christ’s word is preached and the sacraments are administered according to Christ’s command.” (By virtue of the fact that this takes on more forms than merely the Lutheran liturgy, the steadfast denial of those other forms intentionally limits the media by which the Spirit may choose to move. The Spirit is active and dynamic – meeting us in our hearts – living.)

  14. Jesse,

    I commend to you the comments in answer to your first comment — they answer some of the concerns you raise in your second.

    You seem to misunderstand what the Divine Service is, what its purpose is.

    It is not primarily something we do. Divine Service is God serving us Word and Sacrament. God is doing, we are receiving.

    I infer from your comments that you think the moving of the Holy Spirit is determined by feelings. If we can’t get past this error dialog is futile.

    The liturgy is not a barrier, stubborn hearts are. The liturgy is not outdated or irrelevant — it presents the Gospel clearly and concisely without room for individualistic notions of “relevance”.

    The words of the liturgy, and for that matter the musical setting, should show uniformity of doctrine among believers. We act the same because we ARE the same — one in Christ.

  15. Jesse,
    As a newly minted MBA I understand your language, but the marketing paradigm is frankly worthless in this context. (Don’t feel bad, God doesn’t “need” any of us. He can, after all, “raise up children of Abraham” out of rocks.) Marketing is based on an offer, leading to a decision, terminating in the free exchange of goods. The big problem in this is that we believe, teach and confess that the very people who need salvation (the lost) are totally incapable of doing anything to get it (Eph 2:8,9, Luther’s explanation to the 3rd art. etc.) What’s more they can’t even understand either their need for salvation or the means by which God works it (1Cor 2:14, 12:3 etc.). By definition, when we attempt to put the Gospel into terms that the lost can truly understand, and to which they can respond, it ceases to be the real Gospel. The barrier today is the same as it was in the first century, and it is truly multi-cultural. The barrier is “Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” As a result, any attempt to turn the Lutheran (Christian) doctrine of justification into a marketing scenario is going to be a little strained at best, but I suppose you could compare it with marketing CPR to dead people (Col 2:13). However good you are at marketing, that’s just not going to happen.
    We aren’t “marketing” or “offering” salvation, we are “proclaiming” salvation, and the difference is life and death. In the end I know that I can’t “market” the one holy catholic and apostolic church to you (let alone to the lost.) I’m not going to argue you into the historic liturgy of the church. In the end I can only follow Phillip’s example in John 1 and tell you that in His Word rightly proclaimed, and his Sacraments faithfully administered we receive “the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote.” To all of your marketing reservations and concerns of “relevance” I can only give Phillip’s answer: “come and see.”
    Pax Christi +,
    -Matt Mills

  16. Jesse:

    Thanks again for taking the time to respond to my posting, as well as that of Pastor Rossow. I won’t presume to answer for him and I’m looking forward to a more learned response than I can manage, but I’ll offer the following:

    I’m afraid I can’t agree with the pre-supposed positions you bring to the discussion. First, the idea that Christ communicated clearly with his “audience” strikes me as off the mark. My recollection of several Gospel accounts of Christ’s sermons/teachings is that afterwards he would often ask the disciples if they understood his message which he then had to explain to them, or they often followed, without prompting, by asking that most Lutheran of questions “what does this mean?.” It’s not that his teachings were unclear or obscure so much as the people receiving the word, stuck in their sinful nature, were not predisposed to accept and understand it. He didn’t water down or sugar coat the message to make it easier for them to understand. Perhaps your perception of the traditional liturgy/hymnody as being irrelevant, limiting or obscure is more about your perception than it is about the liturgy. The notion that the traditional worship form, liturgy and music are irrelevant, limiting or obfuscational, either by design or social construct is not only completely wrong, it’s insulting. The correlation between Luther translating the scriptures and mass into common German and your desire for rewriting the service in more currently socially acceptable musical forms doesn’t hold up either. Luther’s purpose was to translate it into a language the laity could understand so they could ask “what does this mean?”, and gain understanding of their faith, not to dumb it down so that there would be no point in even asking the question.

    The current/traditional form is translated into as many languages as I can think of. I’m not aware of anyone who is restricted from the opportunity to partake of the Divine Service and ask “what does this mean?” nor am I aware of any Pastors who would refuse to entertain the question and explain the answer. Speaking for myself and most people I know, the traditional music styles are absolutely relevant, mostly easy to sing (except that darn nunc dimitus), and easy to remember, allowing one to contemplate the word through singing/praying the liturgy outside of the worship service.

    As someone whose vocation is marketing, you may already know this, but if not, I would encourage you to do some research on a branch of science called “sentics.” Sentics, as it relates to music, (the tones, the melodic intervals. etc.) reveals that music is never neutral or messageless. The combination of intervals, the arrangement of a melodic line, and all other musical components, send messages something akin subliminal advertisement. And it is not simply a matter of culture. Recognition of this goes back to the ancient Greeks who distinguished between “Apollonian” music, which appealed to the mind, the will, and the higher things of human existence, i.e., intellect, and “Dyonisian” music, which appealed to the emotions and the baser things of life. In his book, The Genealogy of Morals, Friedrich Nietzsche discusses these issues and their effect on the culture of 19th century Romanticism, which was awash in the hyper-subjectivism that was typical of Dyonisian music; Richard Wagner, just as an example. These are things we instinctively “get.” Consider how the music of a Lutheran chorale effects the listener (just the music) compared to the music of 18th and 19th century revivalism, as revisited in Billy Graham crusades and other similar experiences. It should come as no surprise that through an application of sentics it has been found that music associated with churches with a liturgical tradition is almost exclusively “Apollonian” while music associated with non-liturgical traditions (Methobapticostal) is almost exclusively ” Dyonisian.” To use a Lutheran figure of speech, there is some music you just cannot baptize. (thanks to Rev. Kim L. Scharff of Trinity Lutheran Church in Norborne , Missouri , from whom I mostly stole this)

    While I believe you are correct in your assertion that the actual music style is not prescribed, and can be considered as adiophora, I would caution you to consider where the kind of changes you are advocating may lead. I return to my position about the definition of Worship, as it appears to be fundamentally different from your “Worship and Praise” which, as I’ve stated in my previous postings, I believe should be done in an atmosphere of reverence and awe, not rock and roll. This is the essence of the problem I have with the more catchy methobapticostal (just love that word!) praise band hymnody. If I’m tapping my foot, bobbing my head or moving to the tune, pretty soon I’m distracted from worshipping, and it’s not about receiving the word and gifts of the spirit, it becomes about what I’m doing, even if it’s just something as innocuous (Sp?) as enjoying the music. Simply put “Dyonisian” forms of music distract us from what we are there for, and make worship about what we’re doing, rather than what God is doing for us.

    In the 1830’s Charles Finney said: “Without new measures it is impossible that the Church should succeed in gaining the attention of the world to religion. There are so many exciting subjects constantly brought before the public mind, such a running to and fro, so many that cry ‘Lo here!’ and ‘Lo there!’ that the Church cannot maintain her ground without sufficient novelty in measures, to get the public ear.” (Charles Grandison Finney, Revival Lectures ( Grand Rapids : Flemming H. Revell, n.d.), 309.) In the 1830’s! Interestingly, this preceded the formation of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, which grew and flourished, even using the liturgy and hymnody that you find irrelevant and outdated, as did Mr. Grandison 170 years ago. It kind of belies the point that it is the music and form that is limiting the work of the Holy Spirit.

    Finally, you are correct that the Holy Spirit can and does work among other more heterodox denominations “despite their errant ways,” but what is to be gained by knowingly introducing error? We are Lutherans. It’s who we are and where we stand. We can do no other.

    Eric Ramer

  17. Eric, thanks for the great response!


    I do understand the liturgy in question to be referred to as the “Divine Liturgy”, which is also understood to be “inerrant”, correct me if I’m wrong.

    Yes, we call it the “Divine Service”, but in no way is it “inerrant”. The bible is inerrant. The liturgy was created over generations (as others have said). It was not created by Martin Luther but the basic form used by many churches today. There were small changes to it done when LSB came out with 5 settings of the liturgy, and lots of people complained, but most are accepting of the changes — many of the changes went back to the older form.

    I was in Choir tonight, and the following song was very moving to me and relevant to this discussion. This is song #796 from Lutheran Service Book; the song is copyright 1972. This will be our opening hymn this Sunday.

    When in our music God is glorified
    And adoration leaves no room for pride
    It is as though the whole creation cried; (alleluia)

    How often, making music, we have found
    A new dimension in the world of sound
    As worship moved us to a more profound (alleluia)

    So has the Church, in liturgy and song,
    In faith and love, through centuries of wrong,
    Borne witness to the truth in every tongue; (alleluia)

    And did not Jesus sing a psalm that night
    When utmost evil strove against the light?
    Then let us sing, for whom He won the fight (alleluia)

    Let ev’ry instrument be tuned for praise!
    Let all rejoice who have a voice to raise!
    And may God give us faith to sing always; (alleluia)

  18. Eric,

    It is an honor to be considered your brother in the faith. Your comments are quite godly.

    I was away from the computer yesterday and am just now getting a chance to respond to Wednesday’s comments. I will have something up today.

    Pastor Rossow

  19. We should remind people occasionally that, because others call their emotion evoking “look what we are doing!” events “praise services” it does not follow that there is no praise and thanksgiving in the traditional liturgical service!
    You may complain, if you like, that I was raised a Dane in a German community and shouting in the Divine Service was not our way. [They, men and women, sang the hymns to raise the rafters though!]
    You may NOT say that there is no emotion, no praise in my historical worship forms. It’s not true, as evidenced by the texts. If you don’t hear it, perhaps the fault lies in your ears?

  20. Jesse,

    Since many have answered well (and long), I will just add this one note: The purpose of the parables was not to make the Gospel more relevant and understandable. On the contrary, the parables were hidden sayings. He spoke in parables, “that seeing they may see and not perceive, and hearing they may hear and not understand.” In other words, parables were not object lessons or illustrations in the ordinary, modern sense. They were more like cryptic riddles that hid the truth.

  21. Jesse,

    “When was the last time a Lutheran liturgy moved someone -just one person- the way Christ’s words moved thousands?”

    This poor, miserable, damnable, ex-atheist is moved by the “crusty old” liturgy, because it delivers Christ’s words. In the conservative liturgy, which some say is not relevant today, I find God coming to me with His divine gifts. I receive His word, forgiveness, and renewal.

    The boring, old, conservative liturgy is a precious gem. From it I have learned what it means to be not only a Lutheran, but a Christian.

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